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Children not to be forgotten in gay-marriage dispute

I won’t repeat the arguments in favor of and against gay marriage — read another column if you want that rehashed. But I have noticed a trend of invoking children among gay marriage opponents. But that’s about all they do — they throw out the sentence “What about the children?” and leave it hanging.

They ride the same train of thought as me — that marriage can’t be discussed without introducing the possibility of children.

The fact that society just throws around children as an argument without any sort of substantiation is indicative of the role our youth plays in today’s society. Gone are the days when they were best seen and not heard. Today, they’re just plain forgotten.

To me, the child angle is the most important part of the whole gay marriage debate, but one that we haven’t given nearly enough consideration. How do the children of same-sex couples turn out? In the long run, are they better or worse off than the children of heterosexual parents? What matters to me more than the use of the word “marriage” or any other facet of this argument is the effect this all has on children.

So what do we know? Not as much as you might think.

There have been studies put out by the American Academy of Pediatrics, among other groups, that assert that same-sex parents can raise children who turn out to be just as emotionally stable as those raised by heterosexual parents. And, almost without exception, those studies are flawed.

At least, that’s according to Dr. Robert Lerner, a well-known (conservative) debunker of bunk. In 2001, Lerner authored a report examining 49 empirical studies on same-sex parenting. He found a “fatal flaw” in each of the studies he examined. Among them were nonexistent control groups, defective measurements and sample groups too small to draw meaningful conclusions from. Most troubling, perhaps, is that only one of the studies Lerner examined had any kind of longitudinal aspect to it.

I know the response here — Lerner is a conservative, and therefore anything he found must be discounted accordingly. Not quite. If you can knock studies down on such simple grounds as failing to have a control group, political beliefs don’t matter.

But we can’t feign much surprise over this — it’s not like our society has just recently started giving kids a raw deal. After loosening divorce laws, society couldn’t possibly have expected today’s culture of divorce and the resulting broken children. I can’t help but think we didn’t consider all the variables when making it easier to divorce and I want to make sure we don’t repeat that mistake with same-sex marriage.

I’ve heard the argument that “since heterosexuals are doing such a lousy job raising kids, homosexuals can’t do much worse.” That seems to be the goal of too many; happy with not doing “much worse.”

We miss the point entirely.

In terms of same-sex couples rearing children, some assert that because homosexuals have higher levels of depression, drug use, promiscuity and suicide than heterosexuals, they would make worse parents. I have no idea if that’s true. I have no idea if I should believe studies that have reported higher rates of depression among children of same-sex parents. But neither do you.

Once again, the effect on children is the great unknown, and we’re setting the bar for this whole debate at precisely the level of “not much worse.” And until we allow some real longitudinal studies that aren’t skewed by politics, it’ll stay that way.

We are taught that, in a democracy, debate is good; indeed, that it is vital. But the voices that we need to be hearing from in this debate are too young to contribute and the academics that could be speaking for them are too caught up in political correctness to even bother.

The debate over marriage for gays seems to be sticking on that one noun — marriage. It seems to me like it should be sticking on another — one that doesn’t get nearly enough consideration.

Adam Jones, The Hoya, Georgetown University.